Campaign '08

More space policy insights from Boston

The science policy forum held Saturday afternoon at the AAAS meeting in Boston took place on relatively short notice, so much so that the event did not appear in the program for the conference. It was only by around midday on Friday did flyers announcing the event start appearing throughout the Hynes Convention Center, which was more than sufficient to attract an audience hungry to learn more about the science policies of the top two Democratic candidates. The room the forum was held in, which can hold several hundred people, was filled to capacity, with people standing in the back and sitting in the aisles for the full 90 minutes.

The two campaign representatives appearing at the event were very different people. Tom Kalil is a former Clinton Administration official who worked on technology policy and who currently serves as a science and technology advisor to the chancellor of UC Berkeley. Alec Ross is a self-described “social entrepreneur” who is the vice president of One Economy, a nonprofit that works to bring broadband into low-income homes and provide technology training. Of the two, Kalil seemed better versed in the details of science issues than Ross, although Ross’s position in the Obama campaign is as an advisor on “technology, media, and communications”, and not science per se.

The event was moderated by Claudia Dreifus, a New York Times science reporter, who started with a list of questions of her own after the two campaign representatives gave some opening remarks (neither of which made any mention of space). After some questions on topics ranging from nuclear power to bioethics, she finally brought up NASA:

Who does your candidate view the future of NASA? Specifically, do they see manned Moon shots as the best use of resources that might be used for NASA’s other mandated functions?

Kalil answered first:

Senator Clinton does believe it’s necessary to maintain an emphasis on human exploration as part of the NASA program, but she also believes that we need to have support for the Earth sciences program, and has specifically talked about the need to increase investment in our observation capacities so that we have the continued ability to monitor the impact that climate change is having. So, I think the issue is that we’ve not had a balanced program. NASA has been given a large unfunded mandate by the administration and as a result, the earth sciences and the space programs have been cut.

Ross then answered the question:

I’m not allowed to scoop anything, so anticipate some specific policies from the Obama campaign specific to NASA and specific to space exploration within the next month. It’s interesting, because this space has gone largely neglected over the last eight years and it’s in the far periphery of the dialogue in science in Washington right now. I think the importance of examining these policies is not just for the sake of figuring out what is next in terms of exploration but, frankly, as Tom has said, figuring out how it can solve intractable problems here, that we’re contending with in the United States and elsewhere related to climate change and the like. Watch your newspapers for more to come on this.

Dreifus followed up by restating her question, with a focus on (and perhaps bias against) human space exploration:

But, seriously, do you think Moon exploration, I’m sorry, Mars exploration, is the best use of resources? I didn’t really hear an answer. But, surely, there are a lot of people in the scientific community who do not.

Kalil:

Senator Clinton addressed these issues in a speech that she gave in October of 2007 and you can go there to read what sort of views there are on both human exploration, which she thinks is important to maintain, but also the need for NASA to continue to support really critical programs in areas like Earth science and aeronautics as well. I know you’d like me to give more details on Mars, but that’s what she said so far.

Ross:

And what we have for Senator Obama, as you all recall, President Bush made his announcement a number of years ago about his own administration’s long-forgotten commitment to extend, to take the next steps in terms of space exploration to Mars, and Senator Obama gave a response to that at the time, and so what you can do is go to BarackObama.com, go to speeches, search for “Mars”, and you can see it in his own words, how he responded at the time. What I will say is that he responded at the time with skepticism, and that skepticism has been validated in the time since.

Note: after the speech I went to the speeches section of the Obama web site. Not only is there no search function, I could not find (when turning to Google) any evidence of an Obama speech that mentions skepticism, or anything else, about the President’s space exploration proposal.

Later, Dreifus took questions from the audience (submitted on notecards rather than directly asked by people; the organizers said they got on the order of 100 questions on a vary range of science topics.) She did pick one question dealing with NASA, specifically asking Kalil why NASA was not included on the list of agencies whose basic research budgets would be doubled over ten years under one Clinton proposal even though, in the questioner’s words, “it is a small institution and a high-visibility program.” Kalil’s response:

It’s a $15-billion organization, so I don’t know what the questioner means by “small”. Again, Senator Clinton has talked about the need to increase support for NASA, in particular areas like Earth science and aeronautics. She has not made a commitment to double the NASA budget. I think one of the things that’s important to Senator Clinton is to be fiscally responsible, and to talk about where the money is going to come from to make all these commitments. So I think fine to say you’re going to spend $150 billion on this, $100 billion on this, but pretty soon you’re talking real money.

After the event I asked Kalil if the Clinton campaign had considered doubling just the science portion of NASA (about $5 billion a year, versus $17+ billion for the entire agency) in its science poilcy proposal. He effectively gave me a non-answer, directing me to the campaign’s science policy, which, of course, says nothing about NASA funding levels.

The event Saturday was billed as something of a prelude to Sciencedebate 2008, a proposed presidential debate focused exclusively on science issues (including space policy). That debate is scheduled for April 18 in Philadelphia, and Kalil and Ross were asked if their candidates would participate. “Time will tell” is all that Kalil said. Ross said that the invitation “is being given very serious consideration” by the Obama campaign, and will depend on the overall debate schedule.

In his closing remarks, Ross offered some advice intended for scientists in general, but also useful for space advocates. “Don’t be so polite,” he said. “If what you’re trying to do is elevate your issues, then you’ve got to be aggressive about presenting those issues… Whatever the key messages are that you want in the ears of these candidates, you’ve got to organize around them, and you’ve got to pound on the candidates.”

42 comments to More space policy insights from Boston

  • Ray

    Ross: “I think the importance of examining these policies is not just for the sake of figuring out what is next in terms of exploration but, frankly, as Tom has said, figuring out how it can solve intractable problems here, that we’re contending with in the United States and elsewhere related to climate change and the like”

    I agree with this statement. The original VSE made the case that the the NASA efforts should be directed at science, economic, and security problems, and involve serious commercial and international participation (presumably again helping solve economic problems as well as, presumably, diplomatic problems). As far as I can tell ESAS has become underfunded and overextended, and devolved into a NASA rocket development program with little applicability to any of the problems it was supposed to help solve. If they figure out how to get back on track to really addressing the original reasons for it to exist, or at least, let’s say, half of them, it seems to not be worth the (financial and opportunity) cost. If it does present a believable program to help solve some of these problems, I suspect that it will have a lot more support and eventually succeed.

    Assuming that doesn’t happen, Ross is right to say we need to figure out how to have the NASA efforts help solve problems we have. The problem he mentioned, climate change, is one candidate, but there are lots of other possibilities. Some ideas (somewhat customized to what I think would appeal to Obama’s campaign, and not necessarily NASA-focused):

    Climate change (and environment in general) – Fully fund something like the program outlined in the Earth Science and Applications from Space report. In addition, go even farther than the report in increasing science measurements using suborbital vehicles. In spite of what some folks at AAAS said (as reported by Jeff in Personal Spaceflight), buy a considerable amount of suborbital space access scientific measurement and technology test services from suborbital tourism vehicles or other entrepreneurial suborbital vehicles. Figure out how to use Hubble-style servicing or other space infrastructure servicing (tugs, refueling, etc) to benefit Earth observations.

    Education – Buy a significant amount of space access and microgravity services from commercial vendors. Buy lots of suborbital services. Buy lots of smallsat services. Buy some of these services from universities, and buy the rest commercially and let students of all ages and university researchers design experiments for them. Give the best student experiments time on ISS and Bigelow modules. Greatly expand student competitions similar to Team American Rocketry Challenge, Cansat, NASA Means Business, Student Launch Initiative, Lunar Ventures, and so on). Financially these are small in the context of NASA, so I’m talking about perhaps orders of magnitude increases. This should inspire students and teachers. Winnings might be in cash, scholarships, funds for the winning schools, or space access. Giving extra incentives to disadvantaged schools would be appropriate. The national student winner might actually get an orbital trip to space if/when commercial services allow the required safety and affordability. Greatly expand scholarships in space and space-related Earth science departments. Greatly increase the number and size of Centennial Challenge prizes, which not only help solve problems but also inspire lots of motivated student teams, student general interest, and students participating in associated smaller competitions. Implement the Teachers in Space suborbital program, which also has provisions to emphasize disadvantaged schools. Increase the availability of serious but modest-sized telescopes for student use (perhaps over the Internet).

    This all sounds like a lot, but none of it should be all that expensive. The big one is fully funding the Earth Observation report recommendations, and even that is small in ESAS-like in budget terms.

    I won’t go on with other problem areas like the following which space seems to be able to help with, but you get the idea:

    Energy
    Natural Disaster Warning and Response
    Anti-Terrorism from Space and Terrorism Response
    Health and Medicine
    Increased but Cost Effective Military Capabilities

  • Anonymous

    Given the furor and uproar about whose space policy is the most changey and has the most hopiness in previous threads, I find it utterly fascinating that the first reaction of the space community in the face of adversity is to turn on each other and explain how foolish everyone else in the space community is for not holding this, that, or the other position. If we spent half as much invective as we save for each other on the prospect of trying to keep moving forward in space – not stagnating or even maintaining current programs – we might finally see an end to the 35-year-long LEO quagmire.

  • MarkWhittington

    “Given the furor and uproar about whose space policy is the most changey and has the most hopiness in previous threads, I find it utterly fascinating that the first reaction of the space community in the face of adversity is to turn on each other and explain how foolish everyone else in the space community is for not holding this, that, or the other position. If we spent half as much invective as we save for each other on the prospect of trying to keep moving forward in space – not stagnating or even maintaining current programs – we might finally see an end to the 35-year-long LEO quagmire.”

    Bravo.

  • MarkWhittington

    Reading between the lines it looks like that under an Obama Administration NASA will occupy itself a lot more with climate change and a lot less with space exploration.

  • The People

    Reading between the lines it looks like that under an Obama Administration NASA will occupy itself a lot more with climate change and a lot less with space exploration.

    Some NASA centers may even have a role in alternative energy and other national technological initiatives. The efforts in climate change would involve earth science, but would probably result in the reconstitution of strong space science and aeronautics programs. All of these would be big pluses for the nation, and would go far to eradicating the bad case of Griffinitis that has infected NASA for the last 3 years.

    In the meantime, space tourism and LEO commercialization efforts may have a chance to thrive.

  • Ray

    Mark: “Reading between the lines it looks like that under an Obama Administration NASA will occupy itself a lot more with climate change and a lot less with space exploration.”

    Based on what Obama and his representatives have said, that seems like a strong possibility. The same is probably true of the other remaining candidates with a chance to win. Given the lack of practical application of the current lunar exploration plan at all until 2020+, and a strong risk of not much practical application after that even if the plan works (i.e. the risk of it degenerating into an approximate repeat of Apollo, but without Apollo’s breaking of new ground), I’m inclined to consider that as a good thing. At least environmental monitoring from space has fairly immediate and obvious benefits, from scientific to military to economic. Traditional space environmental monitoring also has the advantage over ESAS of using EELVs (helping NOAA and the military share launch costs) and potentially new low-cost commercial launchers (Falcons, etc). It also has similar benefits for commercial, military, and intelligence satellite efforts (especially those that monitor the Earth), as well, of course, as NASA planetary remote sensing and NOAA efforts. As I alluded to above, environmental monitoring also has, if some non-traditional approaches are taken, potential applicability to suborbital commercial efforts and human spaceflight (satellite servicing).

    There’s even the possibility of using the Moon as a full-disk Earth observation platform. If NASA wants to encourage the next President to have more interest in the Moon, it might want to start some demo projects along these lines. I don’t mean wait until 2020 — I mean start them now with robotic demos.

    (See “The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon: Final Report” – Space Studies Board – pages 68-73):

    http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11954&page=68

    One thing that concerns me with Obama’s approach is that it seems like he wants to build Ares 1 and Orion, but not build Ares V. That would be a huge waste. My other concern is that his original plan involved using the savings from “deferring” the lunar effort for an unrelated, large education plan. The numbers don’t seem to add up. I guess we will know more when they release the additional details about their space policy.

  • MarkWhittington

    A focus on climate change would not only tend to waste a lot of money on the scientificly dubious notion of human caused global warming, but would constititute a retreat from space exploration and a ceding of the space frontier to other countries. Besides, wouldn’t NOAA be the more appropriate agency to do Earth observation?

  • “the scientificly dubious notion of human caused global warming”

    Several points need correction here:

    First, if we’re going to challenge a body of research as questionable, we should learn how to spell “scientificly [sic]” correctly.

    Second, the consensus that climate change exists and is likely (with 90% certainty in the last IPCC report) human-induced is a scientific opinion, not a “notion”.

    Third, this opinion has the support of nearly every scientific body with national or international standing, including written consensus statements from (among others) the:

    2001 Joint Science Academies (representing the national science academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom)
    2005 Joint Science Academies (representing the national science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States)
    2007 Joint Science Academies (representing the national science academies of the G8+5 nations)
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Astronomical Society
    American Chemical Society
    American Geological Society
    American Geophysical Union
    American Institute of Physics
    American Physical Society
    Federal Climate Change Science Program (under Bush II)
    Geological Society of America
    United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    United States National Research Council

    Fourth, it’s important to note that no scientific body of national or international standing rejects human-induced climate change. Even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, arguably the most self-interested and potentially compromised scientific body on this issue, rewrote its position last year to allow for human-induced climate change.

    Finally, let me also say that the above in no way intended to spark a debate about the specifics of climate change science or politics, which I know some folks on this board feel strongly about. That’s obviously off-topic and should be taken elsewhere. The above points are made merely to show that the simplistic statement that human-induced climate change is a “scientificly [sic] dubious notion” is patently wrong on several counts.

    “constititute a retreat from space exploration and a ceding of the space frontier to other countries”

    What other countries are pursuing programs of human space exploration beyond Earth orbit? What evidence is there for these programs?

    How is it possible for the United States to cede a frontier that no other nation is pursuing?

    “Besides, wouldn’t NOAA be the more appropriate agency to do Earth observation?”

    There’s a substantial difference between Earth observation for the purposes of supporting commerce (NOAA under the Department of Commerce) and the Earth sciences research conducted by the nation’s R&D agencies (including NASA).

    And regardless, if NASA’s Earth science programs were transferred to another department or agency, the institution (e.g., about half of GSFC) and budget (about $1 billion) would go with them. Moreover, Congressional committees fight tooth-and-nail to retain (or gain) jurisdiction, often causing political damage that far outweighs the benefits of such a move. And the benefits are minimal. Moving programs between departments and agencies rarely solves problems of management or funding. Witness the Coast Guard, FEMA, TSA, etc. and the Department of Homeland Security.

    FWIW…

  • Ray

    Mark: “A focus on climate change would not only tend to waste a lot of money on the scientificly dubious notion of human caused global warming, but would constititute a retreat from space exploration and a ceding of the space frontier to other countries.”

    About the validity of global warming, I won’t take a stand, not having the scientific background. The professional scientific community that actually works on it considers it enough of a threat to take seriously, as anonymous.space noted. Whether or not you think global warming is happening, it seems to be a good idea to increase the volume and types of scientifically-useful Earth observation data so we get a better idea of what’s happening with the climate, if anything, and why it’s happening. That means continually collecting data over long time periods, collecting data at different spatial and spectral resolutions, and collecting different types of data. Only a major effort with a strong space-based component can pull this off. If you don’t think global warming is happening, that seems to be a small price to show it.

    The other point I’ll make is that almost all of this type of data has multiple uses. Even if global warming turns out to not be happening or isn’t severe, the data won’t be wasted. There are lots of uses for the data, including science unrelated to global warming, myriad rock-solid business advantages, and military uses. The infrastructure and associated industrial development to do it (launchers, ground stations, satellites, instruments, communications) also have lots of pleasant side effects for business, military, intelligence, and science efforts.

    I’m also not inclined to consider tilting government space efforts towards something like the environment to be ceding the space frontier to other countries. One point is that lots of other countries are very interested in this type of problem, and they are likely to consider a big U.S. effort in this direction to constitute a modern form of leadership more than a lunar effort. They are likely to want to participate in the effort and cooperate where it’s mutually advantageous, and we’d likely find lots of ways to make that happen.

    I also don’t think it necessarily means the space frontier beyond LEO is ceded at all. Planetary robotics tend to be highly complimentary to Earth observations (e.g. observing Venus and Mars to compare greenhouse effects), so the space community could easily make the case that they should continue. An environmental push would also give 1 more reason to do human missions to, say, Mars for comparative planetology science. There is also the possibility I mentioned earlier of Earth Observation from the Moon, which can be started with robotic demos, but which needs humans to gain most of the benefits. If that suggestion by some in the Earth observation community fails, an environmental push might end up delaying or cancelling the lunar effort but allowing a less-ambitious L-Point solar observation satellite servicing human mission suite, which would still expand our human space capabilities. There are also lots of opportunities with an environmental push to send business towards commercial space, making it more likely that cheap access to space and/or commercial space infrastructure develop, all of which could eventually make a U.S. lunar push easier.

    I will also note that Clinton, McCain, and Obama all have fairly strong environmental platforms, so it might be prudent for anyone in favor of humans in space (or commercial space, or robotic space, or whatever) to see how they could contribute to that effort, while hopefully at the same time expanding our humans in space capabilities towards those other missions we want. Rather than oppose the environmental interests (or the energy independence ones, or the military ones, or the disaster relief ones, or the science ones, or the Homeland Security ones, or other larger but relevant interests), it might make more sense for the space community to see how we can contribute to their needs, and help ourselves by helping them.

  • MarkWhittington

    People here are not getting the big political picture. Obama is using a very common political tactic often employed when one wants to get rid of a government program. Obama is pitting space exploration against other, presumably popular things. First he pitted space exploration against school children. It’s an often repeated joke that one has to watch out when a liberal claims to be doing something “for the children”; it usually means that they’re up to no good but want to cut off all debate. After all, who can be against children, even when the proposed policy could actually be harmful.

    If I’m right (and I usually am about these things) Obama will soon pit space exploration against the environment. “Global warming” or “climate change” is the latest “end times” religion being put out by the left as an excuse to grab more power for the government. The idea of human caused global warming is rather dubious, for a variety of reasons (one being that the computer models that predict it cannot actually replicate historical climate trends.) But it doesn’t matter. The purpose is not to find out if there is a real problem and then fix it in the most economical way possible. The purpose is to increase the power of the state over poeples’ lives, crush the private sector, and retard technological progress. It’s easy to do when one can scare them about an imaginary catastrophe.

    That’s why people like Al Gore (that famous scientist) have stated that the debate is over and that anyone who disputes them are “deniers” and should be treated pretty much like religious heretics were in the Middle Ages. Speaking of the Middle Ages, it is fortunate that environmentalsist were not around during the Medieval Warming Period, not to mention the Little Ice Age that followed. There might not have been a Renaissance.

  • “Reading between the lines…”

    What “lines”?

    Clinton’s original S&T policy statement expressed a preference for increased Earth science funding (among other things) while deferring a human lunar return (a position since altered). But no such Earth science/human space flight tradeoff has been made public by the Obama camp.

    Are you confusing Obama with Clinton?

    “If I’m right (and I usually am about these things)”

    Evidence? Proof?

    How good is your batting average?

    Show us where multiple, dated, written predictions of yours have come true.

    If you’re that good, I’d like to use you for picking some lottery numbers and on trips to Vegas.

    “The idea of human caused global warming is rather dubious, for a variety of reasons (one being that the computer models that predict it cannot actually replicate historical climate trends.)”

    False. Even Wikipedia tells us that for coupled atmosphere-ocean global climate models, the most advanced and complex models available, “Most recent simulations show “plausible” agreement with the measured temperature anomalies over the past 150 years.”

    “The purpose is not to find out if there is a real problem and then fix it in the most economical way possible. The purpose is to increase the power of the state over poeples’ lives, crush the private sector, and retard technological progress. It’s easy to do when one can scare them about an imaginary catastrophe.”

    Does this conspiracy only exist in your mind or can you provide proof for it elsewhere?

    And where is the evidence that the left-wing wants to “crush the private sector, and retard technological progress”?

    “Speaking of the Middle Ages, it is fortunate that environmentalsist were not around during the Medieval Warming Period, not to mention the Little Ice Age that followed. There might not have been a Renaissance.”

    This argument makes no sense. Those periods of warming and cooling were naturally induced; there was no human-induced climate change. An “environmentalist” or naturalist would have nothing to complain about.

    Sheesh…

  • Intelligent Mammal

    You can’t educate and chimp.

  • MarkWhittington

    “Are you confusing Obama with Clinton?”

    Not a loit of daylight between them, to be sure, though Hillary is more willing to pander.

    “False. Even Wikipedia tells us that for coupled atmosphere-ocean global climate models, the most advanced and complex models available, “Most recent simulations show “plausible” agreement with the measured temperature anomalies over the past 150 years.” ”

    Yes, Wikipedia, a very authoratative source.

    “Does this conspiracy only exist in your mind or can you provide proof for it elsewhere?

    And where is the evidence that the left-wing wants to “crush the private sector, and retard technological progress”?”

    From their own mouths. Examples exist without number. Read Al Gore’s books on environmentalism, for example.

    “This argument makes no sense. Those periods of warming and cooling were naturally induced; there was no human-induced climate change. An “environmentalist” or naturalist would have nothing to complain about.”

    Nor is there today in regards to climate change. But that doesn’t keep them from complaining.

  • Intelligent Mammal

    The great thing about these neocons is that they are transparently stupid and incompetent. There is even a psychological profile for this behavior now :

    http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf

    “People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.”

  • Undogmatic

    Mark W, dude!

    You’ve been led way far astray by the denialist literature of the fossil fuel industry and their shills. Your thinking is so owned! Did you even read the prior post from anon.space? Those are authoritative bodies without any political agenda. Despite what you may hear on Rush Limbaugh’s entertainment hour, this is not some vast politically motivated conspiracy led by Al Gore. The connection between fossil fuel use and climate change has been so firmly established by science, that reading your posts, one has to wonder who are you really serving with all that brash skepticism?

    You really should take an hour or so to apply some critical thinking to the facts and falacy making the rounds re: global warming and climate change. Your extreme position firmly places you in an uneducated/dogmatic minority and only serves to degrade your credibility on anything else you write about here.

  • Ray

    Mark: “The purpose is not to find out if there is a real problem and then fix it in the most economical way possible. The purpose is to increase the power of the state over poeples’ lives, crush the private sector, and retard technological progress. It’s easy to do when one can scare them about an imaginary catastrophe.

    That’s why people like Al Gore (that famous scientist) have stated that the debate is over and that anyone who disputes them are “deniers” and should be treated pretty much like religious heretics were in the Middle Ages.”

    If this is true, what better way to counter it than by seriously cranking up the volume on traditional satellite Earth observation, perhaps with new complimentary data platforms like reusable suborbital rockets and big human-tended Earth observation telescopes on, or in orbit around, the Moon? Put this vastly increase flow of data in the hands of scientists with the analysis funding to match, so they have the resources to continually improve their analyses. If global warming is all nonsense, it will come out in the data, and if it’s a mild problem that just warrents some mild adjustments, that will come out too. If it’s a major problem, we’d better figure that out.

    One nice thing about this approach is that it doesn’t need to crush the private sector or retard technological progress. I’ve already mentioned in previous posts the role the private space sector can play in this, as well as the space technological progress it can help bring about. However, I didn’t mention the benefit this approach would have for the private sector and technological progress in other areas. For example, think about the advanced commercial computer and related hardware that will be needed to process all that data. Think about the advanced commercial software like next generations of Google Earth, GIS tools, image processing tools, math software, and other data analysis tools that would be needed. A lot of these improved technologies would undoubtably find commercial use in fields totally unrelated to global warming.

  • Ted

    WHITTINGTON: The purpose is to increase the power of the state over poeples’ lives, crush the private sector, and retard technological progress. It’s easy to do when one can scare them about an imaginary catastrophe.

    Obama wants to “crush the private sector”? Really??

    Obama wants to “retard technological progress?” Really?

    Ron Paul would also get rid of NASA’s government-centric approach to human exploration.

    Does that mean that Ron Paul wants to “crush the private sector” and to “retard technological progress”?

    I don’t see how being against spending 100-200 billion dollars of taxpayer funds on a socialist government human space program — that is fundamentally uneconomical — means that either Obama or Ron Paul is a socialist.

    I can make a pretty darn good case that blindly supporting NASA’s socialist central-government approach to space is “retarding technological progress.”

    I can make a pretty darn good case that the NASA bureaucracy would like to “crush the private sector”.

    - Ted

  • And where is the evidence that the left-wing wants to “crush the private sector, and retard technological progress”?

    Oh, please. I hate to defend Mark, even on a minor point, but that’s almost the definition of the “left wing,” at least the first part.. I mean, it’s not like they’re great defenders of capitalism, and socialist, or anything…

  • The People

    Ted: I can make a pretty darn good case that blindly supporting NASA’s socialist central-government approach to space is “retarding technological progress.”

    And this is exactly what makes my hairs bristle with the whole ESAS approach. ESAS is fundamentally non-competitive and unfair. It harkens to the Design Bureau Culture of the former U.S.S.R. under the tutelage of a Chief Designer.

    Now, one could probably argue that Apollo was conducted along the same lines, but perhaps this is what’s needed in a crises environment. No such environment exists today. If anything, the environment is begging for NASA and other users to support a fledgling commercial space transportation industry that could have tremendous ramifications for the future.

    NASA’s socialist practices are contrary to the American values of competition and free enterprise.

  • “‘False. Even Wikipedia tells us that for coupled atmosphere-ocean global climate models, the most advanced and complex models available, “Most recent simulations show “plausible” agreement with the measured temperature anomalies over the past 150 years.’”

    “Yes, Wikipedia, a very authoratative source.”

    The Wikipedia statement reflects, references, and links to a multitude of scientific consensus reports, including this one:

    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/figspm-4.htm

    “From their own mouths. Examples exist without number.”

    If such quotes “exist without number”, certainly you should be able to provide some. Please, provide the quotes and reference where they are taken from.

    “Read Al Gore’s books on environmentalism, for example.”

    I read “Earth in the Balance” many moons ago in college and still have it on my bookshelf. I don’t recall any statements to the effect of “crushing the private sector” or “retarding technological progress”. Please provide the quotes that you are referencing and page numbers.

    “Nor is there today in regards to climate change.”

    Again, wrong. See the consensus statements and reports provided above and earlier in this thread.

    Oy vey…

  • Habitat Hermit

    Please abandon the idea of majority consensus as science since it’s completely unscientific (and a well-known version of a common fallacy), and while you’re at it please also realize how grossly incomplete the models/simulations are.

    The current knowledge of the atmosphere as a complete system is rudimentary according to the atmospheric sciences so if a model/simulation matches the past “perfectly” it could still be woefully wrong and thus produce erroneous predictions, something which is almost guaranteed when at least some of the variables and interactions are known to be unidentified/unknown (i.e. it opens up for an awful lot of incorrect combinations that would still match/track the records of the past with “plausible agreement “).

    By the way in todays political climate John F. Kennedy would be a neoconservative ^_^

  • “Please abandon the idea of majority consensus as science since it’s completely unscientific”

    Two points:

    1) In the case of human-induced climate change, it’s not just “majority” consensus. It’s vast, overwhelming, massive consensus, as measured by the consensus statements referenced above, but also by literature surveys and community polling.

    2) Science does work through democratic processes, representation, and majorities. Decisions about research grants awards are based on panel votes. Decisions about which articles get published are based on panel votes. Decisions about multi-million and -billion dollar research investments are made through representatives at the National Academies. These decisions and others are all affected by majority views in the relevant scientific community about what theories, models, and laws reflect known evidence about the universe, its workings, and the nature of reality.

    “The current knowledge of the atmosphere as a complete system is rudimentary according to the atmospheric sciences”

    Definition of “rudimentary”? Evidence that the “atmospheric sciences” shares this viewpoint?

    It’s also important to point out that global climate change models are not just atmospheric models. They involve oceanic and other processes, some of which are bigger forcing functions on temperature than certain atmospheric processes.

    “so if a model/simulation matches the past “perfectly” it could still be woefully wrong and thus produce erroneous predictions, something which is almost guaranteed when at least some of the variables and interactions are known to be unidentified/unknown”

    Any model for anything (climate, the economy, engineering systems, etc.) is subject to a similar statement about the limits of known variables and their interactions. It doesn’t help advance an argument for or against decisions based on a model.

    A more specific statement about what variables are missing or poorly defined in global climate change models and why it’s important that they get defined or better defined before making political decisions based on those models would provide a useful argument.

    Not that I think we should take up such an off-topic argument here, but just pointing out that decisionmaking should be based on specific, not generic, arguments.

    “By the way in todays political climate John F. Kennedy would be a neoconservative”

    Depends on the issue, but arguably true for some. But what was the relevance to this thread?

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Ray: While I don’t agree with everything you’ve said, this, I will also note that Clinton, McCain, and Obama all have fairly strong environmental platforms, so it might be prudent for anyone in favor of humans in space (or commercial space, or robotic space, or whatever) to see how they could contribute to that effort is an excellent point, that everyone here should take very seriously. Your point about using satellite data to prove anthropogenic global warming false is also well taken (if unlikely to be possible, which, of course, is why people who agree with Mark rarely make this argument!).

    One thing to add to Anonymous’ response to Mark: Al Gore has been a consistent supporter of human spaceflight. For better or worse, it seems likely that we have a Space Station today primarily because of Mr. Gore. Whatever the merits or lack thereof of the Space Station, this is proof positive that an environmental interest and an interest in human spaceflight are not mutually exclusive.

    Rand: This individual on the relative political left in these sorry days objects in the strongest possible terms to being called a “socialist.” I am not. Nor am I an unalloyed capitalist. I believe in what used to be called a “mixed economy,” as did the founders of our country, and I also believe that the black-and-white view of the world you are expressing has done more to harm American industry (and our path into space) than almost any other problem save Earth’s large gravity well. (In any case, we usually ignore our own retoric, e.g., the airline, Internet, and automobile industries, none of which would exist in anything like their present form without a lot of “intervention” by the government.)

    – Donald

  • Dave Salt

    anonymous.space wrote: In the case of human-induced climate change, it’s not just “majority” consensus. It’s vast, overwhelming, massive consensus, as measured by the consensus statements referenced above, but also by literature surveys and community polling.

    Are these consensus statements saying that climate change is unquestioningly caused by human activity or just that it cannot be ruled out?

    Moreover, I’m intrigued by the much quoted “90% certainty in the last IPCC report”. As this is presented in the context of a scientific statement, I do wonder how the value of 90% was derived (why not 89% or 91%?). As an undergraduate physicist, I was made very much aware of the significance of the uncertainties/error associated with any results.

    My main concern here is that the “scientific method” appears to have been hijacked for the sake of political correctness… I really do hope I’m wrong.

    Dave

  • Getting a little off topic here, but Donald writes…

    I believe in what used to be called a “mixed economy,” as did the founders of our country…

    I’ll just say that the Founders would not recognize today’s economy as anything resembling what they had in mind, and that they’d be appalled at both income taxes at all (let alone the high ones we currently have) on individuals or (more fantastic) corporations, and the degree to which the Commerce Clause has been used to justify all manner of insane intrusions of the federal government into business practices. If you want to attempt to defend yourself against the charge of being a socialist, fine, but don’t delude yourself that the Founders (with the possible exception of Tom Paine) wouldn’t see you as one.

  • “Are these consensus statements saying that climate change is unquestioningly”

    As you know from your physics background, “unquestioningly” is an impossible bar to reach in science. All laws, theories, and models are subject to new and repeated questioning and testing.

    (For example, despite being proven accurate for almost a century now, we’ve spent over $800 million on a space probe to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity and are now considering putting a couple laser beacons on Mars to do an even more stringent test of the same for the new astrophysics decadal survey.)

    “caused by human activity or just that it cannot be ruled out?”

    That said, all the organizations in the list earlier in this thread are in agreement on the former position, that global temperature increases are human-induced.

    Only the statements of two organizations, the aforementioned American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the American Association of State Climatologists, reflect the latter, weaker position, that human causes for global temperature increases cannot be ruled out.

    And again, there is no longer any scientific organization of international or national standing making the contradictory claim that global temperature increases are not caused by human activities. (The American Association of Petroleum Geologists changed their position on this last year.)

    Of course, don’t take my word for it. Quotes, references, and links to all of these consensus statements are available here (add http://):

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

    “Moreover, I’m intrigued by the much quoted “90% certainty in the last IPCC report”. As this is presented in the context of a scientific statement, I do wonder how the value of 90% was derived (why not 89% or 91%?).”

    I should reword that statement. The IPCC employs specific terms for different levels of certainty:

    Most = Greater than 50%
    Likely = At least a 66% likelihood
    Very Likely = At least a 90% likelihood

    The 2007 IPCC report’s summary findings stated (among other things):

    – Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
    – Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [i.e., at least 90% likely, which is what I should have written] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human) greenhouse gas concentrations.
    – The probability that this is caused by natural climatic processes alone is less than 5%.

    So I was wrong to imply that the probability is exactly 90%. The probability lies in a range between 90% and 100%.

    “My main concern here is that the “scientific method” appears to have been hijacked for the sake of political correctness”

    The organizations releasing these statements are either professional organizations representing the membership and opinions of tens of thousands of scientists (all the “associations” and “societies”) and/or organizations created by governments to provide unbiased technical advice to decisionmakers and nations (the “councils”, “panels”, and “acadmies”). They’re not political organizations — they don’t govern anything and they don’t exist to advance a particular political philosophy.

    Hope this helps. FWIW…

  • Dave Salt

    anonymous.space wrote: “The IPCC employs specific terms for different levels of certainty”.

    Unfortunately, the definition you quote tends to support my suspicion that this is not an expression of certainty but more of an attempt to “quantify” a consensus – like a show of hands – and so says nothing about the underlying scientific evidence. Yes, people are still investigating General Relativity, but they’re not disputing the basic maths and the numbers that come out of it’s predictions: they’re looking for a deeper insight as to what it may be approximating.

    As for the consensus statements you link to, I read a lot of solidarity statements in support of the IPCC but very little to suggest that they’re the result of independent assessments. Moreover, I do wonder about the value of a pronouncement on climate change from the American Astronomical Society: would a pronouncement from an institute for gynecologists have any more or any less credibility?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still agnostic on the subject and open to persuasion. However, I’m interested in the science, rather than the rhetoric, but find most of the arguments tend to take the latter form.

    Okay, this has wandered far off topic so I guess I’ll stop here.

  • Habitat Hermit

    Anonymous.space on this subject your two cents bounce ^_^

    You’re right this is a very off-topic conversation and I’ll try to be extremely brief.

    Your first point completely misses the nature of the ad verecundiam fallacy and only enlarges your error. Consensus on its own is not a valid argument.

    In your second point the scientific method does not need or rely on the democratic processes as you describe them, i.e. science and the scientific method is not a political system based on votes. Yet science is sometimes described as democratic in the sense that repeatability is required and for such repeatability one needs the open sharing of all details related to it. This in turn enables anyone with the required skill set and equipment to participate but don’t confuse that with the various “buddy systems” and social herding that you describe –most of which work against the aforementioned transparency.

    A definition slightly abridged from my Oxford dictionary:
    rudimentary adj 1 existing in an imperfect or undeveloped form 2 (derog) elementary; (not more than) basic

    I used it as a mild derogative but there’s not much difference between 1 and 2 since the word is never used to describe something as only slightly imperfect.

    “Evidence that the “atmospheric sciences” shares this viewpoint?”

    I had a long reply here but I’ll cut it short and ask if you’re saying the atmospheric sciences are devoid of highly contentious issues. That begs disbelief considering what we’re discussing.

    In case the quotation marks imply that you’re unfamiliar with the subject the atmospheric sciences is the common name for meteorology (with all it’s subdivisions like atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics) and climatology; all sciences that focus on the atmosphere.

    Your point about oceanic and other processes is true: the models/simulations need to include that and land area effects as well as space weather.

    I’m happy that you know of and point out one of the fundamental limits of scientific models (I made the vary same point elsewhere recently). But that said there are vast differences in how close various models seems to approach actual reality and how thoroughly they’ve been tested. If the methodology of the model and it’s creation is suspect as well then that’s simply atrociously bad.

    I would say that anyone not increasingly skeptical of the claims of IPCC-style climatologists and their believers on explaining and predicting climate change at this point simply fails to comprehend the enormity and multitude of the scientific challenges in such an endeavor.

  • Moving off hydrocarbon fuels to a hydrogen-based energy economy makes sense; the surface of our planet and all its inhabitants are part of one large water cycle so any form of energy conversion process that consumes water and produces water fits the bill. But we better be careful-water vapor is a greenhouse gas, too. Besides, whether it takes 50, 100, or 1000 years, we’re going to eventually run out of oil and its associated resources (we’re just not compressing those swamps fast enough to keep up with demand). Might as well start switching over now.

    But humans as the primary source of climate change? I’ll buy into the validity of the long-term global warming models and their predictions when they demonstrate consistent, dead-on predictions for next week’s, next month’s, and next year’s weather. Until then, I believe it’s perfectly scientific to call their simplifying assumptions, limited modeling, and presumptuous conclusions into question-and equally wise to keep an umbrella in the car.

  • Blunt

    But humans as the primary source of climate change?

    Yes.

    I believe it’s perfectly scientific to call their simplifying assumptions, limited modeling, and presumptuous conclusions into question-and equally wise to keep an umbrella in the car.

    And I call it perfectly acceptable to call an uneducated ignoramus talking out his Uss about something he knows little or nothing about, an ignoramus.

    Do you plan on subjecting the laws of physics to a vote as well?

    Or are you planning to conduct a poll on it with CNN?

  • Blunt

    In case the quotation marks imply that you’re unfamiliar with the subject the atmospheric sciences is the common name for meteorology (with all it’s subdivisions like atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics) and climatology; all sciences that focus on the atmosphere.

    You couldn’t be more wrong. How can anybody take you seriously when you make idiotic statements like that. Climatology is a planetary science, and deals with the coupled air, land, ocean system, and the biosphere on (in) it.

    It doesn’t focus on the atmosphere, everything heats up, the oceans, the land (we see it in the boreholes) and the biosphere reacts to that as well.

    I would say that anyone not increasingly skeptical of the claims of IPCC-style climatologists and their believers on explaining and predicting climate change at this point simply fails to comprehend the enormity and multitude of the scientific challenges in such an endeavor.

    And I would say you are singularly unprepared to understand or comprehend even a small fraction of the modeling parameters and statistics. It’s easy to brush off something you don’t understand, and don’t take the time to even superficially inform yourself about. You come off as an uneducated boob, but we know that already, so we’re well prepared for the kind of idiotic arguments from ineducable lay persons such as yourself.

  • Blunt

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still agnostic on the subject and open to persuasion.

    I suppose educating yourself by actually reading a white paper once and a while is out of the question.

  • Dave Salt

    Blunt wrote: “I suppose educating yourself by actually reading a white paper once and a while is out of the question.”

    Well, I do read the reviews of papers over at worldclimatereport.com and similar sites that seem to make an effort to present an unbiased view (which is also why I also try and avoid the stuff over at realclimate.org :-)

  • blunt

    Well, I do read the reviews of papers over at worldclimatereport.com and similar sites that seem to make an effort to present an unbiased view

    And you can say these things with a straight face and in all honesty, because quite honestly, you are too dumb to know any better :

    Patrick J. Michaels, also known as Pat Michaels, is a “global warming skeptic” who argues that global warming models are fatally flawed and, in any event, we should take no action because new technologies will soon replace those that emit greenhouse gases.

    Michaels, who has completed a Ph.D. in Ecological Climatology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1979) is Editor of the World Climate Report. He is also associated with two think tanks: a Visiting Scientist with the George C. Marshall Institute and a Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies with the Cato Institute.

    Looking very unbiased there. Let’s look further :

    Michaels was previously a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virgina. While Michaels referred to himself as the State Climatologist for Virginia, in August 2006 the Governor clarified that the appointment was one by the University for its accredited climatology office but not an appointment by the state administration. When Michaels left the university in September 2007, UVa professor James N. Galloway explained that Michaels’ “utility industry funding, private research and controversial views on global warming made him a lightning rod on climate change issues,” and “left the [climatologist's] office too politicized.”

    Writing in Harpers Magazine in 1995, author Ross Gelbspan noted that “Michaels has received more than $115,000 over the last four years from coal and energy interests. World Climate Review, a quarterly he founded that routinely debunks climate concerns, was funded by Western Fuels.”

    A furor was raised when it was revealed in 2006 that, at customer expense, Patrick Michaels was quietly paid $100,000 by an electric utility, Intermountain Rural Electric Association, which burns coal to help confuse the issue of global warming.

    Wow, that’s actually quite corrupt by my definition. Let’s see more :

    Michaels “co-operated with Ross McKitrick on another paper that managed to “prove” that global warming wasn’t happening by [http://timlambert.org/2004/08#mckitrick6 mixing up degrees with radians].”

    Michaels has written papers claiming that satellite temperature data shows no global warming trend. But he got this result by cutting the data off after 1996. (Every year after 1996 the satellite measurement showed warming.) Another paper made the bizarre claim that the temperature increases were meaningless because they correlated closely to GDP, without explaining how the GDP caused the increase warming. (A more likely explanation is that high-GDP countries tend to be at higher lattitudes, where global warming has the most impact).

    Ok, not only is that corrupt, it’s incompetent. Did you vote for Bush as well?

    Now, it’s clear to most people who read white paper on a daily basis that you have no idea what white paper really is. Why don’t you list some white paper you have read lately, or tell us what you think what paper really is.

  • Dave Salt

    Wow, talk about waving a red rag at a bull! I couldn’t have written a more eloquent example of the “problem” that many people have with this subject… thank you Mr/Ms Blunt (or should that be Elifritz?).

    The ad hominen attack seem to be the favored “method” of debate by both sides. However, the pro-AGW people seem to have taken a master-class in it, to the extent that anyone with even a mildly skeptical attitude is classed as a “denier” or some equivalent epithet that casts them as a danger to society.

    This is not how the scientific method works and it certainly does not help to “persuade” anyone, though I’m sure it intimidates many.

  • blunt

    This is not how the scientific method works

    Actually, if you knew anything about science at all, you would understand that there is no single ‘scientific method’, but rather a multitude of methods which evolve continuously, and in the case of certain paradigm shifts, abruptly and discretely. Furthermore, you would also understand that skepticism without evidence (I suppose you would call that ‘mild’ skepticism) isn’t a valid approach. What is considered a valid scientific method is anything that works and produces results that are useful, and can be reproducibly and repeatably verified or even falsified (i.e. Popper).

    I have clearly pointed out that worldclimatereport is a fossil fuel funded shill website run by incompetent and corrupt scientists, who produce no white paper on the site, and when they do produce peer reviewed white papers, they are invariably flawed, and even outright wrong. I did this using simple methods of scientific research, which are accessible even to children in elementary school.

    Now if you wish to remain skeptical, I would be more than happy to review your paradigm breaking evidence, but until then, I can assure you I have personally read a large fraction of the relevant white paper on global warming and its associated effects, and I have in the past collected data which has subsequently been incorporated into the volume of evidence, and thus I am qualified to review and judge the veracity of your claims, should you ever get around to making any. Until then, you are not credible.

  • Jeff Foust

    A reminder that this blog is for the discussion of space policy, not climate change policy. Please take those discussions elsewhere.

  • Dave Salt

    My apologies, Jeff. Not only was this off-topic but it also broke the golden rule: don’t feed anonymous trolls!

    Dave

  • aware

    Not a problem, however, there is no discussion here, just a scientific illiterate named Dave Salt who insists on making a fool of himself in front of the entire world. On the other hand, it take a singularly blind individual such as yourself to fail to see the intimate relationship between global warming, climate change, the environment in general, and future United States space policy.

    This will become quite apparent to you after the next election cycle is over.

    I will be observing, as usual, with great humor and mirth, at your misfortune.

  • Dave Salt

    Well, after those rather informative pronouncements, it seems only fitting to let the great Robert Burns have the last words here.

    “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us!”

    Me thinks tis time to close this one down, Jeff.

  • blunter

    Further evidence that you are a fool.

    Obama is going to destroy your beloved manned space program. You have less than one year to get your act together. Make wise use of your time.

  • Jeff Foust

    Comments for this post are now closed, unfortunately.